Scott A. Norton, DMD, MSD

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Focus on family, patients, friends, growth, and community

What can you tell us about your background?

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to make people smile. I always loved getting the class laughing in grade school. Looking back, I am sure this was so I could “study” my classmates’ teeth and get a jump-start on dental anatomy. My story starts in 1971 in Evansville, Indiana (home of the Donut Bank — the best doughnuts anywhere).

For historical reference, 1971 is the year the Pirates won the World Series and the Colts took home the Super Bowl V trophy. One of my favoritechildhoodmemories was getting my friend, Josh, in my dad’s dental chair (at around 4 years of age) and attempting to “perform a dental procedure.” I was fascinated with teeth from the very beginning.

After attending Indiana University for my undergraduate studies, I was accepted to University of Louisville School of Dentistry. I graduated dental school with honors in 1996, completed a general practice residency (GPR) at the University of Louisville, and then went into private practice. Next, I attended the endodontic residency program at Indiana University, earning a master’s degree and graduating in 2000. My master’s thesis was on electronic apex locators (EAL), and I still have a passion for the EALs and dental technology.

Is your practice limited to endodontics?

Yes, and I love every minute of it!

Why did you decide to focus on endodontics?

Dentistry has always felt natural to me, and I have been passionate about endodontics from the get-go. I still remember the first root canal that I performed; it was on a mandibular canine of a fellow dental student. I enjoyed the satisfaction of relieving discomfort and improving my colleague’s well-being. Minutia is very important to me; therefore, I like the detail required by endodontics and the technology involved. While attending dental school, I was naturally drawn to the field’s growing innovative technologies and had the opportunity to assist Oral and Maxillofacial Radiologist, Dr. William Scarfe, with digital radiography research. The technology intrigued me. I used my first apex locator during my GPR and became even more fascinated with endodontics. After 2 months in private practice, I knew in my heart that endodontics was my calling.

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How long have you been practicing?

I have been a dentist since 1996, and I opened my endodontic private practice in 2000 in Louisville, Kentucky. 

What training have you undertaken (beyond your formal dental education)?

The best advice I received when I graduated dental school was “never stop learning.” My license to learn has inspired me to participate in multiple dental study clubs and to take a broad range of continuing education. I also enjoy speaking to study clubs and sharing the knowledge that I have gained. I feel very lucky to have a great organization like the AAE that supports our specialty and enjoy attending our annual sessions. I am currently a member and past president of the Louisville chapter of the Alpha Omega International Dental Fraternity. I also serve on the Louisville Dental Society executive board and see a vital importance of participating with organized dentistry. 

Who has inspired you?

We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. My father, Dr. Glenn Norton, is a great inspiration and still practices comprehensive dentistry in Evansville, Indiana. He has the same passion for the dental profession. Using his “license to learn” advice, he performs dentistry at a high level and continues to take an abundance of CE.  My uncle, Dr. Lyle Siegel, was also an inspiration to me. He was an anesthesiologist who headed to the hospital each day at the break of dawn. Uncle Lyle was very entertaining and taught me that the recipe for success includes the perfect blend of professionalism, high performance, and fun. Dr. Cathy Binkley was the head of my GPR, and at my request, purchased the first apex locator that I ever used. I’m forever grateful for her believing in me, which further fueled my desire to succeed.

So many endodontic mentors contributed to my journey. My program director, Dr. Cecil Brown, nurtured my early endodontic skills and taught me what was necessary to be an endodontic specialist. Dr. Brown’s amazing ability to tell a story and simultaneously teach an important lesson is a quality that I admire and try to emulate in my life. Also, Dr. Joseph Legan at the Indiana University School of Dentistry taught me to think, listen, be patient, and gave me the gift of a general life philosophy.  

My endodontic study club (E.S.C.A.P.E.) continually inspires me. Each year, we meet up in the hosting member’s city for a weekend of sharing and fun. The exciting topics that we address are ever-evolving and usually take many twists and turns (like canal anatomy). I believe when it comes down to it, the true strength of the group is the friendship we share. The group includes Dr. Ken Denardo (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania); Dr. Mike Griffey (Grand Rapids, Michigan); Dr. Larry Johns (Phoenix, Arizona); Dr. Ed Kaminsky (Las Cruces, New Mexico); Dr. Ken Spolnik (Indianapolis, Indiana); and Dr. Randy Yee (Wailuku, Hawaii). 

I’m thankful for and inspired daily by my referring doctors and their staff. Their obvious commitment to our patients and dedication to the dental profession are remarkable. 

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What is the most satisfying aspect of your practice?

This question is easy — improving the quality of my patients’ lives. My staff and I are here to help our patients feel better and relieve their anxieties. When a patient comes to our office, the goal is to provide a welcoming, comfortable, relaxed, and pain-free endodontic experience.

Professionally, what are you most proud of?

At the end of the day, navigating complex canal anatomy with success gives me great satisfaction. My team is top-notch, and together we create a pleasant experience using a gentle touch and state-of-the-art endodontic technologies. Every patient expects and deserves the highest quality care.  

What do you think is unique about your practice?

Our exceptional personal touch! As an extrovert, I enjoy getting to know each and every patient.

What has been your biggest challenge?

Balancing work and family. It is my top priority to provide ample time for individualized patient care while also carving out quality time with my family.  Juggling family events while making sure our practice flows smoothly can be a challenge. Many times an important activity, like “Dad’s day” at school, occurs during office hours. I wouldn’t miss these moments for anything, but they definitely present scheduling challenges! 

What would you have become if you had not become a dentist?

An ophthalmologist — I was determined to use a microscope in my chosen profession.

What is the future of endodontics and dentistry?

Technology is changing at the speed of light — our future is so dynamic and bright.  I am very excited about the rest of my career, and what we can share with the next generation of endodontists.  It is thrilling to view the groundbreaking information received from my CBCT unit. This technological advancement is becoming an integral tool for our endodontic arsenal. Finally, our future in regenerative endodontics is something that continues to intrigue me.

What are your top tips for maintaining a successful practice?

As the great New York Yankees’ Joe DiMaggio said, “There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first or last time; I owe him my best.” I want to give every patient 110% every day! When it comes down to it, fostering relationships, providing the best patient care, and staying on the cutting edge of endodontic treatment and technology are our primary goals.

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What advice would you give to budding endodontists?

Do not forget, this is a journey — get better every day! It is very important to learn from our mistakes (or better yet from a mentor who has already made the mistake). Take time to listen to each patient and answer every question. Consistently perform endodontic therapy at the highest level on every case.

What are your hobbies, and what do you do in your spare time?

In my spare time, I spend as much time with my family as possible.  I feel fortunate to have such a wonderful wife (she completes me) and our two boys who keep me going 24/7. I also love playing tennis and try to take a tennis lesson at least once a week. 

Tell us about a place that you have visited because of your involvement in endodontics.

In 2012, I had the unique opportunity to visit DENTSPLY Maillefer in Ballaigues, Switzerland. The once-in-a-lifetime experience was a career highlight. I participated in a “Train the Trainer” class and was amazed at the sprawling college-like campus of the facility. The engineering and technology that go into making our instruments are remarkable. Watching our rotary and hand files crafted from start to finish is truly an eye-opening experience. We are endodontists at a fantastic time, where globally, the profession grows by leaps and bounds! I made many international friends on this trip, and it was a top 10 experience in my quest for more knowledge.

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